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MBTA Triumphs Over Severe Winter Weather

Thanks to an investment of more than $100 million in overhauling its winter resiliency efforts, Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has been receiving applause in recognition of its successes in keeping its buses and trains operating during this winter’s severe conditions.

In the aftermath of historic snowfalls two years ago that dumped 8 feet of snow on the greater Boston area and shut down MBTA service for parts of four days, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker organized changes to help the system keep moving despite the region’s bad weather.

The state’s two-year Winter Resiliency Project invested $83 million in the first phase, which focused on public transit infrastructure, equipment and operations improvements on two rail lines to more effectively mitigate the frequency, length and magnitude of system disruptions, including third rail and heater improvements along 13.6 miles of track. For the second phase, completed in December, $18.5 million in state funds paid for upgrades along 9.9 miles of two additional rail lines, including replacement of all third rail and heating systems, track and tie renewals, signals, track structure and conduit installations.

Published accounts quote Baker as saying MBTA has devised better ways to clear snow off railroad tracks; employees designed snowplows that can be attached to the front of existing equipment and others manually cleared tracks with snow shovels. “We bought a ton of snow removal equipment and put it to work,” he said. “We didn’t lose a single traction motor in the recent storms because we kept the tracks clear.”

MBTA now operates two snow blowers powered with jet engines, a 50-ton locomotive with auger (plow) and other snow-removal vehicles, and it permanently installed plows on vehicles that clear snow between the running rails. The agency also created a “Stay Connected” campaign that provides service information via text alerts, its website and app and on Twitter.
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